Imagine my excitement when I ran into one of the contestants of The Apprentice at a restaurant in Parnell the other day. The chef was that guy Paul from The Bachelorette and my dining companion was Jesse Mulligan, which kind of made it feel like I was watching the restaurant on TV.

I hissed at Jesse, “Look! It’s Tony from The Apprentice!”

He said, “Who?”

And then I said, “And there’s Paul from The Bachelorette!”

He said, “Which one?”

I said, “Don’t you watch TV?”

Anyway, I got to talking to Tony. He walked past, and I said, winningly, “Wassup, Tony!”

He said, “You know my name?”

I said, “I’m a big fan of the show.”

And then I laid down one of my theories about why the show is so compelling and downright exciting to watch. The Apprentice, I told him, is acting as the de facto opposition to the Labour Government. While National implodes and loses the plot, The Apprentice sets out an attractive alternative to Labour’s little socialism. It presents a clear vision of neoliberal wealth creation in every episode, and makes it look fun.

It’s a show about entrepreneurs, and the work ethic and high risks required to achieve success in business.

It also reveals what it takes to fail. Tonight’s episode, the fifth in the series, was a rollercoaster. Kyria fell off. “You’re fired,” Mike Pero told her, and she left him with no choice. The exercise given to the two teams was to create a two-in-one shampoo and conditioner bar, and Kyria went about things the wrong way from whoa to pack your bags and go.

We’re constantly told about the good ideas that lead to thriving businesses. We don’t hear enough of the bad ideas that go nowhere. Kyria created a character to embody the shampoo – a 32-year-old mother of two young daughters who has just come out of surgery. It didn’t make a lick of sense but what was fascinating was the way her team responded: With enthusiasm. The power of ideas is such that any idea can be followed to the edge of the cliff.

Her team pitched to Rodney Wayne, and two clones in identical clothing from Ecostore. The clones placed a few orders but Rodney didn’t want a bar of Kyria’s bar. Her team lost the challenge and ended up in front of Mike Pero’s firing squad. There was still time for Kyria to make one last, fatal wrong move: Asked to choose who she thought ought to be fired, she selected Michael, a strong performer who had stood by her the whole time.

“Strategy,” she explained. She reasoned that the loyal Michael would turn on another team member, and save her skin. But it was a cynical manoeuvre, and it totally backfired. All that remained was her firing. She called a huff and left in it.

“And so,” as I said to Tony, “The Apprentice is capitalism in the raw, with its winners and losers, its rewards and its right-wing way of life!”

There was an awkward silence, and then he turned to Jesse and said, “Hi!”

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